Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

The Park, home of Northern Ireland football, nets a winner by moving to new online format

Paul Connolly - Belfast Telegraph Managing Editor

A few weeks ago, changes were made to The Park, the Belfast Telegraph's popular junior soccer pull-out. A decision was taken to end the weekly print supplement, which had been gracing the pages of Monday's paper during the football season for some three years.

The Park did not disappear, however; it was given new life online as a free digital publication.

The Readers' Editor does admit to having anticipated that some flak would accompany the decision to withdraw the printed edition. People, naturally, can get very loyal to features in their newspaper and, naturally, can be upset when things change.

Actually, the reaction, when it came, was far from fierce. There were a number of complaints – less than double figures that I am aware of – and all of them couched in fair terms. Almost all the adverse reaction was confined to Twitter.

Most people, however, seem to appreciate that the supplement was being given a new life online, with the opportunity to develop new features and a new following.

As a digital publication, The Park has lower costs than in print and the editorial team is able to go deeper into the subject. Now, a match report can be accompanied by a photo gallery, rather than a single picture.

Players and supporters alike can engage with The Park by commenting on games and articles and by sharing them with social media, like Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

We hope to bring video to the party very soon and we are also hoping to develop more sophisticated fixtures and results tables than the current pdf-based format.

All the regular features have been preserved and the editorial budget – the money needed to be spent to produce the words and pictures – has been maintained. I sincerely hope that The Park will have a glorious future online and that the fans and players recognise what a fantastic resource it can become.

* ON a less happy note, apologies are due after this Monday's crossword was completely mangled.

The grid and the clues were mismatched and the crossword was, as one complainant thundered, "totally un-doable".

Having been at the receiving end of phonecalls and emails down the years, I know all about the feelings of frustration that a section of the readership feels when something goes wrong with the crossword.

Our supplier, the Press Association, issued a grovelling apology to our readers and we published two crosswords the next day, including a correct version of the previous day's errant version.

The crossword comes in from PA and, in theory, it is placed on the correct page and checked.

This checking process failed to highlight PA's cock-up and we have now tightened up our procedures to double-check that the supplied material is correct. Apologies again to all affected.

* I'M not sure who in the Tele had the idea of publishing the series of Stevie Lee cartoon booklets, but my hat is off to them: it was an inspired one.

A good cartoonist is worth his, or her, weight in gold. They have a knack of summing up the mood of the nation and can often push at boundaries far harder than journalists burdened with factual, legal and ethical limitations.

As many a politician knows, a well-aimed piece of satire can be a truly deadly missile.

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